Alone With Big Foot and Sleeping Beauty

30 07 2013

Alone is not such a bad thing, some of the time. I spend the majority of my time alone these days, but that’s why I got a dog. The day I braved the blizzard to make it out to the shelter 45 miles away was the day I put an end to much of my loneliness and gained a buddy to keep me company. Simba is hands-down the best dog that ever lived. 🙂

Yesterday was a day I was even more grateful than usual for my little fur-baby. I just wanted to get out of the house, get my boots dirty, play in the woods. But J works hard, and a lot, and isn’t always up to hiking after work. So when he declined my invitation to go play, I got ready anyway. I can hike by myself just as easily as with someone else! Besides, I have my stellar hiking buddy guard dog to go with me.

I stuffed some crap into my pack for weight, filled up my water and Simba’s, checked that my safety essentials were in there, too, and checked the map to make sure we knew where we were going. Then J gave me his keys and said I could borrow his truck.

Let me just say that again: J let me borrow his truck. His brand-spanking-new truck he just bought a week and a half ago. To drive. All by myself. Up ridiculous mountain roads. I don’t know about you, but that’s such a big deal!! See, he loves me. 🙂

J also rigged a rope contraption in the back that hooked into Simba’s harness so he couldn’t jump out. We don’t know if he’s ever ridden in the back of a truck, or what he might do, so better safe than sorry. All buckled in, we headed for the trail head.

dog in the truck, Sleeping Beauty Washington

“Quit taking pictures and let’s get this show on the road!”

Sleeping Beauty is sort of a ridgeline in the foothills of Mount Adams. The area is steeped in native folklore and is named for the shape: from a distance, the ridge looks like a woman lying down. Sleeping Beauty Peak is her face. The trail is only 3 miles round-trip, but pretty steep, according to my guidebook. I’ve been pouring over the pages of Curious Gorge, the go-to guide book for trails and hikes and cool stuff in the Gorge. Scott Cook, the author, wrote that Sleeping Beauty is a “too-steep trail” that is only popular because “people know very few other hiking options up here in Mt Adams country.” He claims that Steamboat Mountain is way better, with more views, better views, and a better trail. Mr. Cook, I thoroughly enjoy your book, but I have to disagree with you on this. Steamboat had great views at the top but was otherwise utterly boring. Having now hiked both, Sleeping Beauty was by far my favorite of the two and I plan to revisit her every chance I get!

The road to get there was pretty gnarly. Once I turned off the highway onto the gravel road, I never even got out of 2nd gear. Steep, narrow, winding, and bumpy with washboards, the road also had more potholes than the face of a 15-year-old boy. But we finally made it and zoomed off into the woods.

Or up into the woods, I should say. Steep was right! But Simba and I are a determined pair, and we decided that night was THE night to see what we were made of. Hitching my pack up to rest in a comfy spot on my hips, we strode off into the dim forest, setting a quick pace with legs reaching for a nice long stride. About 15 minutes into our grueling climb, Simba needed a nature break and I took the opportunity to stretch and get a better look at the forest. I had felt a dripping on my leg for a while and checked my water bladder’s hose for a leak. Astonished, I realized my water bladder hadn’t sprung a leak, I had. My face was pouring, my shirt drenched. Ewwww….

We continued our hike, doing our best to keep the wind in our sails. We were shimmying around yet another switch-back when I heard a crash and nearly fell off the mountain while having a heart attack. My mind had been completely preoccupied with creating stories around how I became famous by finding Big Foot. My imagination had the shy creature watching me from behind the shaggy, lichen-covered trees when the crash happened, causing me to leap in surprise even more than I normally would.

Simba was standing in full attention, ears perked high, tail straight out and still. My eyes darted around our dense surroundings, searching for the cause of the noise yet not really wanting to find it. Then I saw a movement from behind some trees. Another crash, then running – it was just deer. A huge sigh of relief, much good-boy petting for Simba, and we cautiously continued.

Just as I thought we might need to turn back for time’s sake, the trees parted and a huge rock wall towered over the trail. The going got a bit sketchier as loose, messy scree littered the trail. Simba wasn’t crazy about walking over the rock, and he slowly picked his way higher. Since we were watching the ground closely, the views that suddenly exploded before us were all the more breath-taking. Adams was right there, in our faces, tall and proud in the evening sun. As we scanned the incredible 360 panoramas, I recognized Rainier off to the north of Adams, then St Helens, basking in the setting sun. Beyond, to the south, the pointy peak of Mt Hood pierced the haze from fires in the region, and Trout Lake could be seen in the valley below.

dog and Mt Adams view from Sleeping Beauty Peak, Washington

Simba staring down Adams.

Rainier and Adams views from Sleeping Beauty peak, Trout Lake WA

Rainier is to the far left, playing peek-a-boo behind the ridge. You might have to squint to see it in the haze.

St Helens view from Sleeping Beauty, Trout Lake WA

St Helens, right under the setting sun…so lovely.

Mt Hood in the haze, view from Sleeping Beauty Peak, Trout Lake WA

Hood is on the far right, poking his head up to the clouds. Trout Lake is the cleared area to the left, in the valley.

I could have sat there all day. And night. Night! The sun was setting, and despite the  views, the serenity that was washing over me, and the triumph of conquering the peak – I wanted the comfort of the truck before darkness settled into the trees. Let’s go Simba!

Zoom zoom! Steep uphill is sweaty and hard, but steep downhill is brutal and horrible and hurts. Did someone sneak rocks into my pack at the top? I swear it felt heavier, even though I had sucked down at least a liter of water. Did we come up this way? Did we really climb up this slope? I tried not to let my chest puff with pride too much, since I just knew that would throw off my balance. My calves were really starting to tense with the exertion, my knees aching with the pounding. But worst of all, my butt cheeks felt like someone had built a nice campfire right there in my pants. Every step fanned the flames in my glutes.

But the sun was already behind the mountains, the dense forest growing dimmer by the minute. My traitor imagination was no longer painting a nice, pretty picture of Big Foot – oh no, now the scary, man-eating versions were lurking behind the trees, watching me with hungry red eyes instead of the big brown curious eyes of before.

Then suddenly, we popped out on the road, the trail at an end. Wait, really? I checked my phone: 8:03pm. No way!! We made it up and back down, including time for flights of fancy and photographs, in almost exactly an hour. Three miles, 1400ft elevation gain then drop, and all in one hour. I gave a surprised whoop of victory, scaring Simba. I brushed a sweaty strand of bangs out of my eyes and hugged my panting pup. We did it! We conquered Sleeping Beauty all by ourselves and managed to escape Big Foot’s dinner table all in one night! I did as much of a victory dance as my burning butt cheeks would allow, posed for a selfie in front of the sign, then loaded a grateful mutt back into the truck.

Sleeping Beauty trail head, Trout Lake WA

Sweat-drenched hair, beet-red cheeks, and ecstatic grin – we did it!!

Well done, Simba, well done. Time for dinner, a rub-down, and a fantastic night of sleep.





2 responses

3 02 2015

Great photos! I love this area so much. I never knew how extensive the volcanic activity was in such a picturesque place. It’s magical to say the least. There is also an Big Foot Ordinance in Skamania County; just so you know. 😛

3 02 2015

Thanks, Tom! The results of the volcanic activity never cease to amaze me – the caves of lava tubes, cliffs of basalt columns, fields of crumbly lava rock – “magical” is a great word for it. (PS: I still haven’t actually seen Big Foot, so I remain in good legal standing. 🙂 )

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